Friday, March 28, 2008

I am off!!

Well, it's finally here... almost. I still have errands to run, iPod playlists to create, a bag to pack, nails to paint, and so on, but in 12 hours I will be on a plane to here:

I have never gone on a tropical vacation, never gone to a beach to do nothing for a week... I cannot wait. My pile of clothes for my suitcase is all brightly colored prints and includes zero long sleeves or pants. I'm sort of running around frantic today (last night's Justice show did not help my mania, despite its awesomeness), but I know that as soon as I get there I will feel a weight lifted off my shoulders.

In other news, because I'm going to Belize, I've spent the entire work week aggressively managing a to-do list. It's actually been very productive, and then just now, sort of spontaneously, I completed a project I have been meaning to finish since mid February. I needed a new sign-up system for this program I run, and suddenly I realized it was easier to finish setting that up than to continue with the system I already had. Who knew? I feel like this is an awesome way to end the work day before my vacation. (Except actually, my team of three is going on an "off-site" today, getting our palms read! So this won't actually be the end of the day.) I feel really good about setting off for my vacation on a high note. Now if I can only manage to do all the errands I need to do tonight and make my bed before I take off... and if Stanford wins the basketball game today that wouldn't hurt either. I'm crossing my fingers...

I won't be blogging for the next week, and I have little pains thinking of my Google Reader going unread for a whole 9 days. But I will return refreshed, replenished and determined as usual. I am looking forward to it.

(photo from here)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

This is your life!

I really wanted to post a YouTube video of that old Sesame Street skit where the little chick and bunny move the blocks around into different shapes including a chair. But I couldn't find it. (Google/YouTube search failed me somehow!) So instead, enjoy "This is your life!"

Sesame Street is freaking genius.

Spam is Poetry

Yet another idea I had for the Internet and didn't act on, Spam is Poetry is all about how spam is... well, you know, sort of poetic sometimes. Proof that I've talked about this before:

me: i am clearing out spam email
got some weird ones
3:08 PM some spam comes in series, almost like found poetry
John: ha
me: school god comet compass navy
3:09 PM John: WOW
me: shop air spoon aircraft carrier hammer
John: these are incredible.

The other day I got some awesome spam. It is obviously all sex spam, whatever it's trying to sell me (I clearly don't click on the links). But it's reminiscent of those surveys that you had to take in high school to assess whether you had like a healthy sex attitude/life -- that, or it's like a purity test. Either way, here is a small selection of the more than THREE PAGES' worth of this spam that I transcribed today:

I wanted to dominate the other person.
I wanted to give someone a sexually transmitted disease.
It was an Initiation rite to a club or organization.
The person was mysterious.
It became a habit.
I wanted to see what all the fuss is about.
I wanted to see what it would be like to have see while stoned (e.g. oon marijuana or some other drug).
I wanted to punish myself.
I wanted to gain access to that person's friend.
An erotic movie had turned me on.
I got "carried away".
Because of a bet.
I wanted to increase the number of sex partners I had experienced.
It was easier to "go all the way" than to stop.
It seemed like good exercise.
I was tired of being a virgin.
I wanted to express my love for the person.
I desired emotional closeness (i.e. intimacy).
I wanted to have more sex than my friends.
I wanted to become more focused on work -- sexual thoughts are distracting.
I wanted to reaffirm my sexual orientation.
I wanted to feel closer to God.
I was slumming.
I was married and you're supposed to.
I wanted to keep warm.
I wanted to change the topic of conversation.
I wanted to relieve me menstrual cramps.
I wanted to be used or degraded.
It was a romantic setup.
The person was famous and I wanted to be able to say I had sex with him/her.
Someone dared me.
I wanted to impress friends.
The person had alot of money.

All typos, by the way, are exactly verbatim. Spam is weird!


In case you care about Hillary Clinton's religious affiliations, read these two articles.

Obviously, I believe that politicians' religions should have nothing to do with their electability, because it shouldn't influence their policy and should be kept private. And I'm not trying to drum up gossip about Hillary Clinton, who I am fully voting for if Obama does not get the nomination (unlike these folks). I don't like muckracking. However, I'd like to us to consider the creepiness of everyone's contacts, not just Barack Obama's. Like, especially this guy, whose endorsement John McCain sought out.

(All this via my own obsessive Googling and New York Times reading.)

Postcards from Yo Momma

I'm actually horrified I didn't think of this idea before someone else did. I suppose even if I had, it wouldn't have gotten big, since I am not an ex-Gawker Media employee. Needless to say this website is HILARIOUS. (Disclaimer to my mom: don't be offended. I haven't sent any of yours in.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

This Side of Paradise

My book club met yesterday to talk about our second book, "This Side of Paradise." I had to make a monumental effort, even for me, to finish it, since I started it Monday night and had only read 53 pages (of 282) by the time I left work yesterday afternoon. So I read like mad and finished it in time for the meeting. I reviewed it on GoodReads, so I won't belabor my review here, but I wanted to pull out one of the exceptional quotes from it. (There were quite a few, but this one is the most alluring.) I'm filled with dreams of floating this week... only a few more days until I'll be floating myself in the ocean.

Often they swam and as Amory floated lazily in the water he shut his mind to all thoughts except those of hazy soap-bubble lands where the sun splattered through wind-drunk trees. How could anyone possibly think or worry, or do anything except splash and dive and loll there on the edge of time while the flower months failed. Let the days move over - sadness and memory and pain recurred outside, and here, once more, before he went on to meet them he wanted to drift and be young.

--F. Scott Fitzgerald


Um, good to know, I guess:

Recent studies have shown that heavy drinking does more damage to the teenage brain than previously suspected, while the part of the brain responsible for judgment is not even fully formed until the age of 25.

“If we were to argue that responsible drinking requires a responsible brain, theoretically we wouldn’t introduce alcohol until 25,” said Dr. Ralph I. Lopez, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Weill-Cornell Medical College who specializes in adolescents.

This blog entry brought to you by a 24 and a half year old who has been drinking for more than 6 years...


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Peep Show!

It's already all over the Internet but, as expected, the Washington Post "Peep Show" contest yielded some pretty awesome Peep dioramas. You can see the whole slideshow here. My favorites are 2, 8, 19, and 36, although quite a lot of them are ingenious and it's quite shocking how much you can make a Peep look like a famous person (see Christian Siriano in #34, Randy Jackson in #32).

Really stretching back into memory now...

Something someone said at work reminded me to look this up. This poster was up in my dentist's office when I was growing up (it is probably still there), and I read it over and over again at each of my semi-annual teeth cleanings. It's totally cheesy, but something about it still resonates with me. Maybe it's the simplicity of the message (I especially like the parts I bolded below), and a little trick to its rhythm that makes it memorable, or maybe it's just the memory I have of it and of sitting in the slightly-too-cool room in the squeaky leather of the dentist's chair...

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:
Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Monday, March 24, 2008

It can't come soon enough.

Dan sent me this article for the Belize "mindset."

I am in the ocean, doing nothing, just bobbing.

I am facing a golden-sugar beach, a low pink hotel, a thatched palapa baking in the heat. To my left, a long crescent stretch of bay, a cradling arm around a basket of blue. To my right, a stone jetty. Beyond it, a port full of oceangoing tankers and the cliff-hugging city of Manzanillo. Behind me, the limitless Pacific. All around, pelicans loitering in the swells, which lift and gently drop me, my arms out, toes brushing velvet sand.

Boy, howdy. Sunscreen at the ready.

(P.S. Also, derrumbes is a great word.)

Outside Lands

I'm beyond words excited for the Outside Lands festival in SF this August. I was disappointed by the Coachella lineup, but this one is right in my own backyard and cheaper, plus it has Radiohead. The kicker for me is Wilco, since they were supposed to play at Coachella when I went in 2004, but then Jeff Tweedy had to go into rehab. Blah. I feel vindicated!

The only worry is that tickets go on sale while I'm in Belize... may have to find a designated ticket purchaser.

Jezebel's Past Fashion 08 - Easter

This gallery, as I expected, is awesome. Plus, it reinforces something I really never thought about until very recently... the Easter Bunny is kind of creepy!!

Close to the finish line

I feel like my life the past couple of weeks has just sped up dramatically. Suddenly I am flying to Belize in four and a half short days! I would like to be able to say that I am completely ready, but I am not even close. And this weekend was pretty crazy in parts, so I definitely did not get the chance to relax and get things in order. Still, I am hoping that Belize will help me with that. Once the rush to get there and be ready for it and packed and all that, I feel like I am just going to crash, and that is what I want to do. I am absurdly excited about the prospect of doing nothing for a week. I really need it.

This weekend was actually very calm until yesterday. My friend Elizabeth had given up meat for Lent, and so she/we replaced Easter with the "Meat Blowout." I can't even tell if that sounds disgusting anymore because it's been a major calendar item for the past, well, forty days. The MB(o), as Elizabeth abbreviated it, featured prosciutto with melon, bacon-wrapped scallops, slider burgers with blue cheese, and lamb kabobs, and was generally delicious. (We also had scalloped potatoes, salad and a quinoa dish I'd made, but almost no one ate any of that stuff except the potatoes.) Accompanying this feast was my friend Peattie's grandmother's signature recipe for Lynchburg Lemonade. It's a little shocking how much meat and alcohol the group of us (maybe 15 people total) consumed. The rest of the day went as you would expect... an hour or so finishing off the lemonade in the park, and then a group of us watching movies at my house. Tragically, I was so tired that I went to bed before the conclusion of the second movie (which was Clueless. We were at that level of intellectual ability).

So that was a rather raucous end to an otherwise calm weekend. Friday night I had dinner with Dan and then fell asleep watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (You thought I had moved on, didn't you?) Then Saturday I shopped for hours, buying things for my Belize trip. I didn't really have an exhaustive list, but I wanted some summery things and a new bathing suit. I'm very disappointed with the lack of styles of suits right now... J. Crew has so many of them online but they had like 6 in the store. I basically bought the entire mall, so in that sense it was a productive afternoon. That evening I went to dinner at Delfina, which was fantastic. I'd never been there and it was a real treat. I had the halibut, which was super creamy, and the capers on top were almost toasted so they were vaguely crunchy. Sounds strange, but it was delicious.

Last week I was feeling pretty sanguine about things... I knew I had a lot to do but it felt manageable. I don't feel much differently now... it's not like I have a massive to-do list. I just feel the pressure of time passing, like I'm being forced to accelerate faster than I meant to. It is a good thing that I have tonight free. I feel like going home and collapsing for a little while and letting the stillness happen.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I really, really, really want to send this picture into Jezebel for their "Past Fashions" feature... they are looking for retro Easter pictures and I think this one is pretty fab. But since it's my sister, not me, who is the more amusing one here, I just couldn't bring myself to e-mail it in. It's just not fair to do it without asking her permission. Like posting someone's IM chat on your blog without asking.

(Partly I like it cause it's so classic California. The poppies and everything! And I'm trying to sit all daintily and you can tell Lucie is either having a grand old time or really sick of wearing that dress and sitting on an awkward rail for so long.)

YouTube Views of Obama's Speech

Do you ever think to yourself, what would the 60s or whatever be like if we'd had YouTube back then? How many mashups would there have been of the "I am not a crook" Nixon thing? How many views would JFK's assassination have gotten, or videos of protests and police beatings? It's an interesting metric that we are used to using now, but I wonder how it would have applied back then.


Note to self: Just because New York Times commentators are reading the New York Times does not make them necessarily the brightest tool in the shed. I say this mostly because while stumbling around the site this morning (honestly, people say Wikipedia is hard to extract yourself from, but every time I click on one article on the Times I have to click on at least two more) I came across this blog post from Nicholas Kristof, whose political leanings are kind of obscure to me but who sometimes I end up reading just because. And then I read the comments and then I got really angry. I know it's silly and pointless to get angry about dumb people in America or the world, but sometimes I can't help but get steamed when people entirely miss the point. The second comment on this post made me want to shake the person who wrote it. It's so obviously what Obama talked about in his speech that I couldn't really handle the fact that this person missed the point, and it's also so damn smug.

Luckily there were some better comments out there. Still, this is why politicians rarely talk as openly and candidly about issues like this as Obama did on Tuesday, and this is why I could never be a politician -- I take these minor instances of single people missing the point and misinterpreting far too seriously.

I think the overall point that is really bothering me is this idea that because he happens to be extreme, that we should disregard Wright at all costs without inquiring as to how he became extreme. That is part of Obama's point and it's all over the liberal Internet. On "The Root," which has been/is called "the black Slate," I came across this piece:

Two thirds of whites believe that blacks have achieved or will soon achieve racial equality. Nearly eighty percent of blacks believe that racial justice for blacks will not be achieved either in their lifetime or at all in the U.S.

Ok, so these are self-reported, and so it doesn't mean that there is no racial justice or equality, or that we are actually in a dire strait like this. But it matters that people think this way. It matters that black people in the U.S. feel left out. It matters that white America is completely up and arms about one man's comments, and yet men like Jerry Falwell have been around for EVER spouting terrible shit all the time. To quote another NY Times commentator: "most white Americans have no clue about the common nature of discourse in a variety of African American communities... [Emily's note: No shit.] To some degree this isn’t out of willful ignorance; it is simply the luxury of the majority. White communities do not have to understand black communities or realities in order to survive and prosper (or at least have not had to up to now; it is arguable that in our current world even white communities have to become more conversant in other racial/ethnic/religious/national realities simply to survive). By contrast, black communities have had to understand white communities in order to survive in a society dominated by white privilege." These feelings matter, because those feelings contribute to actions and behavior and voting and law and grand concepts like freedom and equality. And I believe that we need to ask why these feelings exist, and how we can work to assuage and soothe them, across the board, across racial and religious divides. Anyway, as a pretty privileged white girl with no real academic knowledge of racial issues, I am probably putting my foot in my mouth here, but I still feel a pretty gut instinct wrongness about a lot of this ongoing dialogue, and it makes me sad.

In other news, people in the U.S. think racism is a bigger problem than sexism. I think had I answered the poll, I would have said they were both equal problems, but I would have been tempted to put my notch on the sexism side. Just so you know.

I suddenly have this urge to go watch the West Wing and cocoon myself in a comfortable, fictional political world instead of this real one, which is a mess.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

St. Paddy's

My lack of a camera (I have this theory that mine is broken, but have yet to actually replace the batteries and check to be sure) prevents these little updates from being as interesting as they should, but oh well. Monday night was the second meeting of the Dirty Apron Kitchen Club, the cooking club that my friends and I have, er, cooked up. I insisted that we had to have corned beef for St. Patrick's Day, and boy, did we. Dan spent the afternoon (he was off work, having used his floating holiday to celebrate his Irishness) boiling the corned beef to awesome levels of tender flakiness. I got home slightly early in time to frost Guinness chocolate cupcakes (with green sprinkles!) and mix up some soda bread muffins with dill. The menu in the end was as you'd expect: corned beef, cabbage, carrots and red potatoes, soda bread muffins, and for our one friend who is pescatarian for Lent, seared salmon with caper-raisin butter on top. (So good!) The meal was accompanied by lots of Guinness and a few Irish Car Bombs, and someone was thoughtful enough to bring Irish music, so we had a pretty great time. For fourteen people including all the booze it was only about $7 a person, proving once again that cooking for yourself is a great idea. I also had the opportunity to put my food processor to work. I'd never actually used it before despite borrowing it from my parents more than a year ago! (Don' worry, though, Becca used it once.) It's remarkably easy to use and clean up after, and I'm feeling the cooking urge after all the baking and blending I did.

Generally speaking cooking seems to be in vogue as of late. My friends and I have started a "brunch club" cooking brunch on weekends. We've only met three times, and I missed the second time because I was in LA, but we've had great success. The first time we just had scrambled eggs (omelets were a bust) with tater tots (Laurel's request), bacon, and English muffins with jam. The second time I went (third time total) we made really tasty French toast, and one of our friends also made an onion, tomato and cheese tart as well as a sort of caprese salad with avocados. In addition to that Justin and I have been cooking dinner more frequently on weekends, which is really soothing to me. I miss cooking so much! Saturday we made steak, with chimichurri, mashed potatoes and a wilted spinach-and-grape-tomato side dish. I am craving that spinach dish all over again... it was surprisingly good given sometimes spinach can be kind of dusty and strange tasting when cooked.

Now back to ogling recipes at work...

To be a runner...

It's no secret that I am not athletic. I was on the swim team for my freshman year of high school, but quit a month into my sophomore year. I played one season of girls' softball in fourth grade. That's about the extent of my athletic capabilities. I'm terrible at all team sports, and it is usually like pulling teeth to get me to participate in them at all. (You need to twist my arm, and then be patient with my utter suckitude. Although I usually do end up enjoying it.) The only "sport" I particularly like is kayaking, and I'm not actually good at it, I just like it a lot for some reason. Anyway, all this is just background for my newest aspiration, which is that my spring goal is to be able to run six miles in a row. I've never done that. The farthest I've ever run is three miles in a row, back in fall 2006 when I developed this actual exercise habit and enjoyed it. But I have always hated being a slug, and I don't like feeling uncomfortable in my own body, which is the way I feel whenever I have to participate in something physical (which can be as basic as walking up a hill that's a little steeper than I'm used to, but can also be my awkwardness throwing a Frisbee), and so I'm trying to take concrete steps. I have that strange kind of resolve that sometimes comes upon you for no discernable reason, when suddenly you enjoy going to the gym, and you feel weird not doing it for a day. This happens to me very rarely so I am capitalizing on it. My roommate, Dan, is a marathon runner, and he's set up a Google calendar for us to keep track of my running and for him to set me up on a program to train up to six miles at a normal person pace. (Right now, 6 miles would take me more than an hour to run.) It's pretty exciting! I just felt like sharing. I will probably post about whatever milestones I reach as I (fingers crossed) accomplish them. So far, I'm at 2 miles in a row, and my projects for tomorrow and Friday are to do interval training and then to run outside for a bit, as an adventure. Pretty jazzed!

Twenty Percent Time

This shocked me:

Many if not most of those dead are from my generation. They were twenty-somethings who, like me, have lived with this war for 20% of their lifetimes.

I was talking to someone the other day who was saying that her entire political life has been lived under the Bush administration. Mine is similar. Even though I was aware of politics before that, it was mostly just a few hot-button issues (abortion, welfare, affirmative action, the Lewinsky scandal). I have developed my (slightly more) nuanced view of politics under the auspices of our current government.

The fact that this war has been going on for 20% of my life is horrifying. I can only hope, and do my best to ensure that we do not elect McCain and continue this bullshit.

(full article at DailyKos)

Oh, to be a cultural attache

Belated, but: I want this job so badly.

Does anyone want to hire me in a similar role? I am cultured. And good at the Internet.

Er, take it back

Sorry, this will be my last post on a political note today. Apparently there's a sort of ridiculous "strike" going on on DailyKos. One of the pro-Clinton bloggers on the site is refusing to write anymore because the site is biased towards Obama. This is the kind of shit I find hilarious and fascinating due to my obsession with the Internet and all things blogs. I mean really, only in this modern age. Here's some background on the "strike"/boycott and here is Kos' take on the matter (which happens to also be a pretty eloquent little argument against Clinton). I used to try to read DailyKos daily, and it was too much for me (like trying to read the entire New York Times every day, or finish the New Yorker each week), but I'm checking in now and finding it really fascinating. It is great to have a non-"mainstream" source for political news (although really it's so popular that it's sort of mainstream as far as blogs go). That and the New York Times' "Caucus" blog are my go-to sources these days.

More on the speech...

I'm still processing all this to-do over Obama's speech yesterday. I know I really liked it, and I agree with the commentators who are saying that it's historic, honest, etc. I know it's getting a lot of coverage but there's no sign of what it may do to him (or for him) in the polls or in Pennsylvania. But mostly I almost feel like it's not even getting the credit it deserves. I don't think it matters if it helps or hinders him in the long run, because even if he doesn't win, it is a great speech and an incredibly important one.

I want to quote my dad here just for good measure and because it's true:
I think it's interesting that some people in this country are all of a sudden pissed off that some politician has a preacher that supports him, that then says something stupid. What the hell? this is the kind of stuff that has been going on for years now. without the anger this particular story has brewed up.
Bush has been getting advice from crackhead, thieving liars, for the last seven plus years. Of course this is when he's not getting advice from his imaginary friend.

Alright, enough about that. I'll get back to blogging non-political things.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Mr. Obama seemed to be arguing not only for his own candidacy but also against the often-reductive nature of presidential politics.
--Jodi Kantor, the New York Times

Not this time.

Barack Obama's speech on race today is really good. It was partly a disavowal of the controversial Rev. Wright's beliefs, and I think it did a decent job of that. But it went far beyond that. It was direct, it was compassionate, it was extremely well written, and it was just generally awesome. It also did a good job of addressing the issue of race without highlighting Obama so much as the candidate of a certain race, or however you want to put it. It wasn't about his background or his ability to unite people because he has a diverse heritage, but about clear sightedness and empathy. I wish I could have seen him deliver it live.

Plus, I really liked how he candidly addressed some of the bigger controversies of recent times (Ferraro, and the issue of whether he was "too black" or "not black enough," the idea that his "candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap") without seeming to jab at anyone, just being honest. Some highlights:

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

It goes on. Really a great speech. Rumor is he wrote it himself.

P.S. Just found this:

I will be watching it later.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The College Admissions Machine

The irony of Keith Gessen, Harvard grad and founder of elite(ist?) litmag N+1, writing an essay about how hard it is for kids to get into top colleges and more importantly the machine of college admissions (including cliche bullshit application essays) and calling out authors of books about that subject on they're members of the "so-called American meritocracy", is not lost on me.

And yet, somehow, the meritocracy keeps chugging along. Both Jager-Hyman and Samuels — along with just about everyone else — agree that things have gone too far with the college admissions game. “Destructive and anti-democratic,” Nicholas Lemann called it in “The Big Test,” his superb social history of the SAT: “It warps the sensibilities and distorts the education of the millions of people whose lives it touches.” I would go further: in a post-ideological age, the admissions frenzy has become its own ideology. My Russian parents, for example, while too sophisticated to disapprove of drinking or smoking, were not above suggesting that “Harvard” might not like it. Harvard might be mortified; Harvard might take it amiss. Harvard is coming to dinner — please tuck in your shirt.

Even worse than the temporary psychological distortion is, as Lemann argued in “The Big Test,” the permanent sense of entitlement the admissions game provides. Winners can plausibly claim they participated in a brutal competition (even if many potential competitors were never told about it). So we owe no one anything. Many of the people I went to school with became doctors, public advocates, television writers who bring laughter to the American people. But most of them became, like my friend who believed that getting into Harvard was the hardest thing in life, investment bankers. We meritocrats have not, generally speaking, used our fantastic test-taking abilities to build a more equitable world. In fact, buoyed by a sense of the fairness of the process, we may have done the reverse.

But he has a point. (I am sure Gawker has torn up this essay and it is mildly ridiculous, but it does speak to a lot of the issues involved with attending a top university. Entitlement is a real problem, and one I think about a lot.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

How to kiss someone with braces, and my own humiliation.

So, I am going to get braces. I know!! I don't know yet if they are going to be Invisalign, ceramic or metal. If it's either of the latter I am going to freak out. I told my friend Marcin at work and he was asking what things you can't eat or drink if you have them, and if kissing is weird. So I did some Googling to prove to him that there is actually (or mythically) a possibility of getting your braces stuck to someone else's braces. (I will say now that I don't know anyone with braces so I don't think this will be a problem no matter what.) So then I freaked myself out even more by stumbling across a bunch of articles online about kissing with braces and I pretty much just died. There is actually an eHow article about how to kiss someone with braces! Kill me now!

Honestly, put yourself in my shoes, a 24 year old who will soon be a metal-or-plastic mouth, and read this thing. I guarantee you will cringe.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hot Mess

Whenever I read Urban Dictionary I am reminded of the fact that my life is relatively pure. 90% of the entries on there reference lewd acts I have zero interest in even thinking about. That said, it's pretty darn enlightening and amusing to peruse some of the definitions. For example, this morning I was talking to Ace about the phrase "hot mess." I defined it as a particularly vivid mess, or a mess that you've earned somehow. Frequently the creation/evolution of the hot mess involves alcohol, i.e. "I'm such a hot mess, I showed up to work drunk/hungover/in the same clothes as last night" (I have not done that!) Or "I was a hot mess last night." I feel like the vividness comes from some intense living of life, which leads to you being something of a disaster. (I should disclaim here that the reason we were talking about this today is that we stayed up too late last night for no reason and rolled up to work feeling terrible and looking not much better. My yellow sweater is not particularly helping, nor is the fact that I have a pile of work to do.) Anyway, so hot mess is a great, great term. Urban Dictionary has a few definitions I appreciate:

"someone who would by no other means be sexy but for some odd reason is. Most likely due to their disregard for self, or humor, or just kuz they're dumbasses"

"adj., Foustian in origin. Used to describe things that are extreme. Must be used in context for the listener to understand whether it is positive or negative. In the negative sense, it takes on a tone of high sarcasm." (so not an adjective, though)

Ok, thus ends my vocabulary post of the day. Back to work, really!

Political Hot Messes and me

I'm actually really trying to focus on work today, and so blogging this week has been a little bit on the back burner. Some stuff that's come up, though:

Justin sent me this awesome NPR slideshow of politicians' wives "standing by their men" in times of crisis. There are some great ones. Some of the wives look just exhausted (Spitzer's wife in particular). The looks on the men's faces are pretty classic, too, Nixon's in particular. God, what a disaster all this stuff is this week.

More from Justin, this video casts even more doubt on our country's politicians and makes me just plain angry.

A pretty interesting (and faster to read than you'd think) piece about the grudge between Obama and McCain.

I am looking forward to the weekend... this week has been more tiring than I expected it to be. It started Sunday night, when I decided that four strong beers at Toronado was a really great idea, and then Daylight Savings Time has completely messed with me. I'll be grateful to sleep in Saturday morning, but I need to buckle down and do some preparation for my Belize trip. By preparation, I mean shopping, but sometimes it feels like hard work.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do.

A couple of weeks ago at the Orbit Room I was explaining how I kind of keep lists in my head of ideal mix CDs. Basically there are some songs that pair or group SO WELL together, thematically and/or soundwise, and I keep thinking that if I remember those groupings for long enough, eventually other songs are going to join those groups and I'll end up with a full CD's worth. I was thinking about this today and I have four of these kind of to-be-continued mix CDs. I feel like I should make a disclaimer at this point and admit that at heart I have incredibly dorky taste in music. It's like no matter how much indie shit I listen to and love, I end up coming back to some of the same stuff I've loved for years and years. I'm pretty much ok with that, but I also kind of feel like I'm unburdening a sort of deeply embarrassing or vulnerable thing by sharing these mixes with you, but it was on my mind so I'm doing it anyway.

The "perfect love song" Mix.
These songs are all buoyantly happy and bouncy and just awesome.
1 - Van Morrison's "Perfect Fit." I would like this played at my wedding. (And I never say "I want my wedding to be like X," so you know that when I say it I really mean it.)
2 - John Lennon's "Oh Yoko." Rachel totally called me on this on Valentine's Day. She posted it on her blog and when I told her "Oh man, I love that song," she said "I know, that and the Long Winters' "Cinnamon" and Spoon's Anything you want." I am apparently reliably dorky on the subject of certain songs.

3 - The Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face." This is like my favoritest love song ever. It's so so happy. I am pretty sure I saw "Across the Universe" purely because this song was in the preview and they had that awesome bowling scene with it. (Also he is really adorable.)

4 - Complete middle school alert: Alanis Morissette's "Head Over Feet." I know, I am a dweeb, but it's really damn good. It happened to come on my iTunes last night and I had a great time with it while cleaning my room. I love the sort of hitch in her voice when she says "I've never felt this healthy before."

5 - And, to go with one I already mentioned, the Long Winters' "Cinnamon." This one I sort of wore out on a teensy bit, and didn't litsen to for like, three years, but after Rachel mentioned it on V-Day I went back to listen to it again. I love the part "We lied, we're already married, cause, here's proof we have suntans." It makes little sense but the imagery it evokes is really good, and I like the sort of spillage of once sentence into another. It sounds kind of breathless, like you can't help it, and I think that really sums up the mood of this mix cd pretty well so I included this after all.

This mix would probably be the easiest to complete, but I've never really dared. The songs I just listed ended up here because I've happened to play them only when I felt absolutely happy for no good reason, and I feel like a mix like this has to happen organically.

The "I don't really care if you screw me over, and in fact kind of want you to screw me over just because it's all I can get right now" love song mix.
There are only two of these because these are the only two songs that really feel the same to me in this way. I think that the rhymey-ness of "crack you up" and "fuck me up" helped me pair these together.
1 - The National's "Slow Show." I mostly mean the part "I wanna hurry home to you, put on a slow, dumb show for you and crack you up." It sounds so desperate, like, you will do anything you can to keep her around, even if it's making a fool of yourself. I think part of it is just the vibe, not the lyrics.

2 - Ryan Adam's "Come Pick Me up." This one is the part "I wish you would come pick me up, take me out, fuck me up, steal my records." I also love how the lyrics change from "screw all my friends, they're all full of shit" in the beginning to "screw all my friends behind my back" -- it's just a nice trick there and I like the idea of ignoring your friends' better advice not to be with someone. It happens. This video sucks but the song is good:

The "I am a selfish person" love mix.
I don't really know how to title this one, so bear with me.
1 - Basically I have always had this secret strange love for the Blink 182 song "Josie." The subject of the song is sort of a pushover, but for some reason the song is just sort of good anyway, I mean as good as a Blink 182 song could be. And also there's a certain amount of gratitude in the lyrics for the girl, which I feel like mutes the pushover-ness of it a bit.

2 - This song's pair is oddly enough Weezer's "No One Else." Maybe it's the surfer-skater connection, or just the idea that the narrator of this song is kind of pissed that his girl isn't more like Josie. I never really believed that the singer actually wanted it to be "over now," I felt like it was an empty threat.

Finally, the "sweet family songs" mix. I can admit that I have cried during every one of these songs.
1 - I'm ashamed to say it, but, Lonestar's "Front Porch Looking In." Sometimes in LA there is nothing on any of the radio stations (even the oldies' station) but commercials, and during those times for some reason the country station is still playing songs. These times, I sometimes used to listen to country. I am not super ashamed about it because by the way country is great to listen to when you are drunk, but I hate to admit that I cried at a Lonestar song. (Those responsible for "Amazed" really should not inspire any genuine emotion. I just don't know how to reconcile this.)

2 - More country: Phil Vassar's "Just Another Day in Paradise." I won't continue to disclaim anymore.
3 - Shawn Colvin's "I'll say I'm sorry now." I think this one my mom played or said she thought was sad, and I couldn't agree more. Sad but in a good way. I like how it ends sort of abruptly, like there's only so far she can take you and then you are on your own, which is sort of the point.
4 - Marc Cohn's "The Things We've Handed Down." This one my dad played for me once. It's by far the saddest and best of these.

For some reason this blog entry reminds me of my old Stanford Daily articles. I guess I've been in this kind of slap-happy mood all week (well, all day and a half of the week), and so I'm sort of giddy enough to post random crap like this. You guys know me, you know how much of a nerd I can get about things I really love. I get irrationally happy and grinny. Given the slap-happy giddy mood I'm in, it's no surprise I've been listening to a lot of happy music, and if not happy music then music that I just really, really love. So I'm going to forgive myself for the geeking out. This is a good opportunity, however, for comments from you all (you know, all four of you). What are your imaginary mix cds, if any, or what would you put on the kinds that I've listed?

I feel like I might need to watch "High Fidelity" this week.

Monday, March 10, 2008

If you wanna sing

This is a shitty video but this song has been in my head all day. I'm in a good mood, so even though this song lyrically is kind of sad, I don't care.

The song is "If we can land a man on the moon, surely I can win your heart" by Beulah.

My So-Called Life

For some reason I've been reading bits and pieces of the script to the "boiler room episode" of My So-Called Life all day. Damn, that episode is SO GOOD. I've been just giggling to myself all morning. I intend to watch it (for probably the 35th time) tonight. Some clips:

And just for good measure, the last bit of the series. This kills me EVERY TIME.

The part where he says "But you liked it, though, right? It made you like, happy?" is sort of the Juno "I try really hard actually" moment of the 90s.

Man, I really wish I was not at work right now.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Daylight Savings Time

I was alerted to this fun fact by a work thread:

Daylight saving has caused controversy since it began. Winston Churchill argued that it enlarges "the opportunities for the pursuit of health and happiness among the millions of people who live in this country." Robertson Davies, however, detected "the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves."

I love that. Just love it.


Belated blog post about F*cking Matt Damon

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's totally all over the blogosphere (gag me for even uttering that word), but you have to admit that the "I'm f*&king Ben Affleck" video was a major coup for Jimmy Kimmel. It's one of those moments where I love celebrities for all being this group of semi-friends with inside jokes that they can have a good time with. (It's the same reason I appreciate movies that aren't funny just because it seems like the cast itself had such a blast making it.) Anyway, as a result I was happy to see this brief interview with Ben Affleck and Jimmy Kimmel in Entertainment Weekly, explaining how the short came about.

If you for some reason have not seen the Ben Affleck or Matt Damon videos, here:

The original.

The spoof.

Heath Ledger's Last Days

So I read the fictionalized article about Heath Ledger's last days in Esquire. At first I hated it, and then I liked it, and then I didn't like it again. It's just... weird. Melodramatic, mostly, and I feel like he wouldn't like it either. Still, there was something in the middle of it that made me feel this sort of pang for this man who was just a guy, who is now forever in most people's minds just a figure, and how only a few people ever really knew him, and all imagination on our parts is futile.

Beer Can House

Just wow:

From 1968 until his death 20 years later, Mr. Milkovisch, an upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, not only emptied 50,000 cans or more of his favorite beverage but also put the containers to good use, cladding his house and workshop with thousands of maintenance-free flattened beer cans (Falstaff was a favorite) and shading the sun with garlands of tinkling beer can tops and tabs.

The wrong kind.

I'm back from my 1000th post with more inanity. Truly, I can't say it enough: Stuff White People Like is SO TRUE. Naturally it's true for all of my friends including my friends Ashoke (Indian, who has pretty much just started announcing that he is white randomly and every time I've talked to him for like the past two weeks) and Cristina (Mexican) so it's obviously just true for hipster 20-something educated folks, which is why I loved this one line in #84: T-Shirts:

It is also imperative to understand that faux vintage shirts (”Getting Lucky in Kentucky”) are completely unacceptable. They are beloved by the wrong kind of white people, and must be avoided at all costs.

Ah, so true.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Guess what this is? This is my 1000th post on my blog!

I've been anticipating this little anniversary for a while now, as I watched the numbers in my editor slowly grow. I'm pretty astonished that I have written this much (my self-awareness is spotty when it comes to my volubility), and to be honest, pretty proud. I've sustained this blog over more than two years. My first post was in July 2005, and I've been relatively consistent with this since then, especially as of late. I love having a little place to share things with all kinds of people -- my family, some friends near and far, and even a few "randoms."

When I started this, I wasn't exactly sure why. I just wanted a place to lay my head in the blogosphere, and I wanted an outlet for my thoughts as I entered the wide world of my 20s. I named it "now, tastes more like REAL life" after I saw a stupid commercial using that hackneyed phrase and I thought to myself, why would you ever want something that tasted like the real thing when you could have the real thing? But the truth is that we think in these strange dualities or levels all the time. I so often wonder, when is my real life going to start? or, is this my real life? or, when am I going to feel like an adult? when am I going to find my career, my passion, my life partner? The reality (pun not intended, I just have a small vocabulary) is that we are in the middle of our real lives all the time, and yet we always think that we're on our way to them. Part of my journey over the past two and a half years, and I think part of it shows on this blog, is coming to terms with the fact that I am living my life, day by day, and I should be aware of that and enjoying it and satisfied by that, but also that striving is good, and wondering is good, and asking questions is good, and being honest about when you are scared or confused or out of your comfort zone is good. That is, I suppose, what this blog is at its heart about. I know I post a lot of silly pop cultural things, too, but I like to think that this is a little more than that. A reflection of what I'm thinking about and learning -- and a reflection that is partly for you but partly for me, too, so that I have a record of what life felt like and what I cared about when I was how old I am now. I haven't really ever looked back on those posts the way you sometimes do with diaries and I don't really plan to look back now. I'm not going to celebrate my 1000th post with a list or an analysis of my favorite posts and such. This isn't really that kind of blog. It's not cohesive like that, and I don't think it's ever going to be, because I'll never be cohesive, because I'll always be in progress and I'll always be moving and going ahead.

This is a day by day blog, a walk down the block to your favorite coffee shop or movie theater (or, let's face it, bar) blog, an e-mail to your friend just to say hi blog, an "I thought you'd like this song" blog. At least, that's what I aspire for it to be, and I aspire for it to be the kind of place where I can document my weird journey through and to "real life" with a little help from my friends.

I was thinking despite saying I wouldn't look back that I would, well, look back a bit on all the stuff that's happened to me in the past two and a half years. But I don't think I will after all. I feel pretty satisfied with where this is going. I feel pretty happy with now.

P.S. "I love right now right now." -- my roommate, Dan

The Final Countdown

Memo to Arrested Development fans:

This exists.


A little poetry in the afternoon

For some reason I thought of this poem today (even though it's actually pretty gloomy out). I used to love it. It's a little more direct than I usually like my poems, but I think the last two lines resonate so strongly that it's worth it.

The Summer Day
Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Down with John McCain

If you, like I am, are worried that the continuing race between Clinton and Obama will just give McCain a chance to beef up his campaign for November and therefore result in five (or more! except he is old!) years of him, read this. It might make you feel a little better.
(I read too much. It's like my day is an emotional roller coaster build out of blogs.)

P.S. More and more about McCain's anti-choice politics. It is so annoying that liberals don't hate him.

The Three Trillion Dollar War

For your frightening statistics of the day:

On Thursday, the Joint Economic Committee, chaired by Senator Chuck Schumer, conducted a public examination of the costs of the war. The witnesses included the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz (who believes the overall costs of the war — not just the cost to taxpayers — will reach $3 trillion), and Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International.

Both men talked about large opportunities lost because of the money poured into the war. “For a fraction of the cost of this war,” said Mr. Stiglitz, “we could have put Social Security on a sound footing for the next half-century or more.”

Mr. Hormats mentioned Social Security and Medicare, saying that both could have been put “on a more sustainable basis.” And he cited the committee’s own calculations from last fall that showed that the money spent on the war each day is enough to enroll an additional 58,000 children in Head Start for a year, or make a year of college affordable for 160,000 low-income students through Pell Grants, or pay the annual salaries of nearly 11,000 additional border patrol agents or 14,000 more police officers.

Thanks to Orges for bringing this to my attention. A much longer article about Stiglitz' book "The Three Trillion Dollar War" is here, and contains this uplifting fact:

And it is the world economy that is at stake, not just America's. The trillions the rest of the world has shouldered include, of course, the smashed Iraqi economy, the tens of thousands of Iraqi dead, the price, to neighbouring countries, of absorbing thousands of refugees, the coalition dead and wounded (before the war Gordon Brown set aside £1bn; as of late 2007, direct operating costs in Iraq and Afghanistan were £7bn and rising). But the rising price of oil has also meant, accoring to Stiglitz and Bilmes, that the cost to oil-importing industrial countries in Europe and the Far East is now about $1.1 trillion. And to developing countries it has been devastating: they note a study by the International Energy Agency that looked at a sample of 13 African countries and found that rising oil prices have "had the effect of lowering the average income by 3% - more than offsetting all of the increase in foreign aid that they had received in recent years, and setting the stage for another crisis in these countries". Stiglitz made his name by, among other things, criticising America's use of globalisation as a bully pulpit; now he says flatly, "Yes, that's part of being in a global economy. You make a mistake of this order, and it affects people all over the world."


Book Clubs!

In the past month I've joined two book clubs. The first, an actual book club which met a week or so ago. The second, an online book club, where we are ostensibly reading "Little Children" by Charles Bock and posting about it on Tumblr here. I'm not done with the book (I think the others on the site are, although also they have not posted there in a while) but I've started thinking about it and trying to figure out how I feel about it (while withholding some judgment). If you want to read some of my thoughts you can check them out here.

As for my real book club, what a trip. I missed the first meeting (where there was no book discussion, just apparently a lot of wine), but I joined for the second, where there was less wine but instead this delicious spicy jam spread on top of cream cheese which I feel like is vaguely middle-American but nevertheless was delicious. Oh, and there was more book talk. This was a group of about 10 girls, and I knew three of them. The connections between them all was pretty vague -- some were Stanford folks so I was connected to the by degrees, and then there were the second and third degree connections that I couldn't keep track of. I'd never been to a book club before and was hesitant about it thanks in part to stories I've heard from other folks (you know who you are). When we first got there we went around naming our favorite books and it was a pretty mixed bag. Some of us were English majors and others weren't, and some of those were pretty uncertain about being able to hold their own in a book club, which I said was silly (because it is). But then we went straight into discussion and it was really cool actually! We had a ton to say, even though the book was very short and I hadn't been sure that I'd have a lot to say until we got there. It felt really, really good to be sitting down with a group of smart people to talk about a book and get really into it and let myself be a total nerd. I was in pretty good company -- one girl that was there, I swear she's read everything on the planet, and another busted out some reference to the meaning of the word frog in Japanese, and we generally had a great time. Our next book is "This Side of Paradise" which I feel will be very different, but I haven't read it so I'm not sure how the discussion will go.

And for the record, we read "After the Quake." I really enjoyed it, especially after we'd talked about it, and I liked it more than the other Murakami books I'd read. I have to say that if you are an English major nerd, you should read this for your book club 'cause there's lots of fun symbolic shit to explore and talk about. I get the paper-writing urge just thinking about it. Mm mm.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Text is a four letter word

I found this on Dan's away message today. I couldn't be more pleased that there is someone else out there on the internet who wants their predictive T9 text to be able to spell out swear words. I just want to be able to teach it words, like a dictionary entry in Microsoft Word. Big pet peeve, guys, I swear.

Primary Colors

I'm getting to the point where I kind of want a joint ticket. No, but see as I wrote that I remembered that I don't want to put another legacy family back in the White House. Anyway, perhaps what's at the bottom of this emotion is that I want this race to be over already. I am relatively pleased with yesterday's results -- Obama's campaign is calculating (and Talking Points Memo is tentatively agreeing) that Hillary only regained 4 delegates, and either way I wasn't expecting him to blow her away, I just wanted him to do moderately well (and to at least win one of the states, but, whatever, I am resigned). Still, I can't believe that the next big state is Pennsylvania, at the end of April. Meanwhile, John McCain is sitting pretty and preparing his national campaign. Argh, it just makes me mad. I watched his speech last night after he won and I found myself experiencing the kind of rage I normally feel watching George Bush's speeches, and I realized that I am really, really not ready for four more years of that. Just not at all. I hardly feel prepared to deal with the next eight months. All this deceptive Republican (no offense) rhetoric bullshit, disguised as populism and compassion. Man.

Anyway, I'm going to go back to refreshing the Texas caucus results.

And, more food for thought. (I agree with parts of it. via)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Box offices over time

This chart of movie box office sales over time is pretty cool... I can't remember where I found it but it's a fun visualization (visualization seeming to be the theme of the afternoon). It definitely re-emphasizes the big hits in an interesting way, and highlights a few that you wouldn't have thought would have made much of an impression. Also it really highlights those summer blockbuster periods and Academy Award cram sessions.

Pop Charts

If you have any of the guilty love for T-Pain's "Bartender" that I have, you will like this.

(There are more here. Some better than others. Here's one I particularly like. To quote a commenter on another Flickr page, "Rick Astley is the new Chuck Norris." Only hopefully not a Huckabee supporter.)

Seed Bank

This is old news now, but the Times did a slideshow of the Global Seed Bank last week. It's very strange and Golden Compass/Svalbard-like. Not to mention the whole idea is sort of reminiscent of sci-fi plots where they send an ark-like spaceship into the void in the chance that all human life on earth will be destroyed. Ok, so maybe it's like the Ark, but the point is that it's still sort of surreal to think of thousands of seeds being stored yards under the Arctic ice. You can check out some of the slideshow here, read the accompanying article here, or better yet read the long piece from The New Yorker a few months back about the rationale for the Seed Bank. It's one of the better New Yorker items I've read in the past sixth months, and definitely worth a look.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Easter is coming

Not sure how I feel about this. But I find it sort of irresistably clever, no matter how also creepy and odd it is. Plus it reminded me of BJ Novak's expose on Conan O'Brien (sadly not available to watch anymore) about how Cadbury eggs have shrunk. They totally have! Of course my tolerance for the sickeningly-yet-so-good "goo" insides of Cadbury eggs has also shrunk, so I suppose it's all for the best.